Three things you may not know about tiramisù:
The name is actually made up of two words stuck together - tirami and su - and it literally means "pick me up". It is written with an accent on the letter u. The reason for the name is that, in its classic version, the main ingredient is coffee (a lot of it) and, as such, it's supposed to pick you up or cheer you up!
Tiramisù appears to have been invented between the 1960-70s, but the name does not appear in print until 1980!!! Can you believe that before then we lived in a world where tiramisù did not exist? I find it hard to imagine! The where and when exactly is unclear, but it's believed it was invented in the Veneto region (though some claims trace it back to the city of Gorizia in the neighbouring region of Friuli Venezia Giulia).
Its popularity in the United States spread thanks to the movie Sleepless in Seattle, where Tom Hanks claims to have heard of tiramisù only as a mysterious thing that modern women loved.
(Bonus fun-fact: Legend says that tiramisù has aphrodisiac effects and was served in brothels in the city of Treviso).
For a dessert that has not been around for that long, the recipe has evolved massively over time, and countless versions now exists. Its popularity worldwide is probably due to the fact that, not only it is extremely decadent and delicious, but it's also very easy to make as it doesn't require any baking or cooking.
This pistachio tiramisù is one I'm particularly fond of as it features, well...pistachios, an ingredient that appears in many signature Sicilian dishes.
Pistachios from Bronte - a small town near the Etna volcano - are regarded as one of the best varieties of pistachios there is, and we use them to enrich so many savoury and sweet dishes. Some examples you may have never heard of?
...all of which are popular dishes in Sicily, especially on the eastern side of the island.
But back to our pistachio tiramisù. This recipe is extremely easy and quick as you can use store-bought pistachio cream and sponge cake and assemble this in no time.
However, I went the extra mile though and prepared each component from scratch, because I wanted to make it completely eggless and I'm aware that lady fingers biscuits (we call them Savoiardi) have eggs.
I also opted for making individual portions, using a pastry ring to cut discs of my homemade sponge cake. That's also optional, and you can simply bake the sponge cake in a square or rectangular tray, then cut it horizontally into 3 layers and alternating between the sponge and cream.
So here we go.
We normally use store bought lady fingers biscuits for the base (they are called Savoiardi), though these have eggs. In this case, I made a sponge cake from scratch so that I could make it eggless.
We also normally use store-bought pistachio cream as it's easily available everywhere in Sicily, but I'm giving you the recipe for homemade pistachio cream, as I know it's not easily available elsewhere.
Note I used pistachio cream, which is very different from pistachio paste - the paste is just made of pistachios (just like peanut butter), while the cream has other ingredients like sugar and cocoa butter so it's quite sweet.
Ingredients (for 6 portions)
For the eggless sponge cake:
200g 00 flour
100g potato starch
16g baking powder
180g white caster sugar
100ml sunflower oil
1/2 tbsp orange blossom water
The grated zest of 1/2 orange
For the pistachio cream (this will make extra cream; you can store it in a glass jar in the fridge for up to a week and use as a spread):
150g unsalted, peeled pistachios (remove also the inner skin)
100g white chocolate
20g unsalted butter
50ml (or more) full-fat milk
150g pistachio cream
18 discs of sponge cake, each of 8cm diameter and 1cm thick
4 shots of unsweetened espresso coffee mixed with 2 tbsp of milk
Chopped pistachios to decorate
Start by making the sponge cake. Pre-heat the oven to 180C. In a large bowl, mix the sugar, oil, milk, orange blossom water and orange zest. Sieve the flour, starch and baking powder. Add them to the wet ingredients, in batches, until full incorporated with no lumps.
Grease a 28x23cm baking tray and transfer the batter in it. Bake for approximately 35 minutes. Allow the cake to cool down completely, then using pastry ring of 8cm diameter, cut 8 disc, then cut each disc horizontally in 3 equal parts. Set aside.
While the cake is baking, make the pistachio cream. Heat a small pot of water and soak the pistachios in it for 10 minutes to soften them. Drain and set aside. When cooled down, transfer to a mixer and grind to a fine paste.
Melt the white chocolate, butter and milk over a bain marie, mixing with a silicone or wooden spoon to prevent lumps. Add the ground pistachio paste to it and fold until you obtain a smooth cream.
Allow the cream to cool completely, them mix with the mascarpone until smooth and silky.
Prepare the coffee, stir in the milk and let it cool down a bit.
Dip one disc of sponge cake in the coffee-milk mixture for a couple of seconds, then place inside the previously used pastry ring. Top with one layer of pistachio-mascarpone cream. Repeat by alternating 3 layers of sponge cake with 3 layers of pistachio cream. Finally top with ground pistachios.
Create the remaining portions of tiramisù in the same way. Transfer them, while still in the pastry rings, to the fridge and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to let them set.
Before serving, remove the pastry ring and transfer the tiramisù to a dessert plate.